Capello vs Germany pt.2

A minor storm seems to be brewing in Germany over Fabio Capello's assertion that countries, are unfairly 'stealing' players, dragging them away from their family and roots at an inappropriately young age. The glaring irony of this statement coming from an Italian managing England, and the strange choice of Germany as an example to chastise, should not detract from an important theme here, one which Capello is brave and correct to raise.

On reading the Daily Mail article one can understand Germany's collective umbrage; the new national team is a rightly celebrated symbol of a multi-cultural society, in which players with various backgrounds (though either born or for the most part raised in Germany) combine teamspirit, individual skill and tactical discipline to devastating effect. However, when reading Capello's quotations a bit more closely, it seems that some selective and mischievous journalism from the Mail has targeted Germany when Capello's real target is clubs, not countries.

Apart from the dubious claim about Germany's five players with dual nationality, Capello almost solely talks about big European clubs stockpiling the best young players from around the globe, taking advantage of their often humble backgrounds. Is it fair to criticise this process, in which academies beyond saturated with uprooted talent? I think so, and Capello seems to think he has the backing of Michelle Platini on this issue. Is it fair to criticise players for switching international alliance? Well this is a grey area, but I think whilst some examples prove Capello points the German national team patently isn't one of them.

I'm sure most people would agree that players with dual nationality, who have grown up in one country and learnt the game there, are perfectly entitled to choose that country as their own. In fact Oezil's stance is just as valid as Hamit Altintop's (born in Gelsenkirchen, plays for Turkey). Heritage and upbringing both form a crucial part of somebody's identity, and if a person bases their self-identity on either they have a complete right to do so.

The problem with international football, and other sports (the England cricket team springs to mind), is that the 'naturalisation' of players is becoming a cheap, easy route to international 'honour'. Either due to a lack of a strong home league, or an abundance of talent, decide to represent a country they have no roots in. The high profile cases are Deco and Senna, but there are many more, for example Apoula Edel - the Cameroon born Armenian who represents his naturalised country despite having lived there for three years of his entire life.

Is there a simple answer to this problem? Well in the long run investing in the game at all levels, raising coaching standards and improving facilities could lead to a situation where this isn't necessary. In terms of changing the rules I think once a player has represented a nation at any level they have made their choice (if there was one) and shouldn't be able to change it. I don't think arbitrarily altering the length of time required to aquire dual nationality makes much sense - that is a symptom of the problem and not the cause.

Perhaps another attributing factor to this dilution of the core values of the international game is the example set by the so-called leading nations. When an Italian can coach the English national team, not too long after a Swede, why shouldn't traditionally smaller nations import talent?

Exiled in Berlin

A slow but ever increasing slide towards 'exile' status has taken over recently, apologies to my one follower on here for the many missed deadlines. Last season I managed one post and one match (West Ham away), which actually provide a nice symmetry as the post came just after our home match against the Hammers.

The turbulent and increasingly senseless, brash and self-congratulatory world of the Premier League has spun even further out of control. In some ways the landscape has been altered beyond recognition (consider the then supremacy of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal to virtually all other teams), but then in others it remains drearily constant: the managerial merry-go-round, the regurgitative coverage and ticket prices completely out of line with world that exists beyond matchday.

I don't live near Villa Park anymore, I don't expect to go to any games this season, and I don't even live in England anymore. I've decided to reopen this blog to provide (if thats an appropriate word) my insight on German football. The Bundesliga is a refreshing antidote to the Premier League, especially as a supporter: tickets are cheap and stadiums grand, standing is accommodated, the atmosphere unthreatening (fans openly mix in the stands) but at the same time impressive (ok I'm still not completely convinced by the megaphone-men, but they do get things going) and the football is actually quite good.

On this last point English fans often point to the slow-paced, tactical matches abroad as synonymous with a boring waste of ninety minutes: where are the open-spaces? Where are the positionally inept midfielders low on short passing but great at high-octane, lung busting near misses? What, no tackling? Well the Bundesliga has the highest goals to game ratio in Europe and, apart from Bayern being a near constant in the top-two, is a competitive and even league. I like it, and am growing to love it.